Saturday, May 9, 2009

Comparing Ontario PC leadership candidates

I saw this a few days ago at Crux of the Matter, where Sandy posted about Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Tim Hudak's platform on education. I knew immediately I needed to go and compare the education platforms (if any) of the four candidates for the leadership of the party-- given the party's 2007 blunder on faith-based funding and Premier Dalton McGuinty's desire to be known as the education premier, education could rear its head again as a dominant issue in the 2011 provincial campaign.
So, let's take a look.

Tim Hudak (PC--Niagara-Glanbrook)
Hudak is the only candidate to have a clearly enunciated platform plank on education, featuring four elements.
Hudak’s plan includes:
Enhanced Use of Phonics: Greater emphasis on phonics as a basis for literacy and enhanced training and support for teachers in its use.
High School Exit Exams:
Work with the Education Quality and Accountability Office to introduce province-wide high school exit exams to provide more information to parents, students and post-secondary institutions.
Financial Literacy: Make economic and financial literacy a mandatory part of the high school curriculum.
Fair and Accurate Grading: Eliminate unfair pressure on teachers to make sure students pass even if the student is unwilling or unable to complete the work.
Frank Klees (PC--Newmarket-Aurora)
Klees has been his party's longtime education critic. One can quickly take a peek with a simple search at his various positions on the government's record on education through his statements in the legislature and on his website. It's disappointing, however, given this track record that Klees has nothing on his website indicating what his entire education platform is. The only thing I could find that was close enough was his statement on autism coming out of the government's track record on ABA and other therapies for children with autism.

Randy Hillier (PC--Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox&Addington)
This relative newbie to the legislature doesn't have anything overly specific to education on his leadership website. The interesting reading on the subject comes under the section of his site where he solicits policy ideas from anyone with enough time to fill out the web form. Several of those who have submitted ask Hillier to take on voucher / charter schools as part of his platform. One in particular asks for a greater emphasis on science within the current curriculum. Given Hillier's politics (he has an interesting history as a property owners' rights advocate and has written for separatist publications in the past) he is easily the most rural, conservative candidate on the ballot.

Christine Elliott (PC--Whitby-Oshawa)
Like the other two above, Elliott has nothing explicit on her site about education. The word gets only three hits in a simple search, with one referring to Northern Ontario, one on her flat-tax plank and the last on educating us about the ills of addictions.

Frankly, it's disappointing.
The Tories are five days away from the deadline to sign up new members eligible to vote for the new leader. Education is the second-largest expense on the government (after healthcare), and only one of the candidates has explicitly listed where he would take education in this province. Dealing specifically with Hudak, I would wonder whether he's been paying attention to what his family has been experiencing. Phonics is used as part of the toolkit in both early years and primary grades as children learn to read and write. This reporter has witnessed it first-hand in a number of classrooms. On the matter of a high school exit exam-- isn't this one of the roles fulfilled by the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test? Students cannot obtain their Ontario Secondary School Diploma without passing (remembering that a Level 3 is roughly equivalent to a B mark) the test or the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course. I would also question whether an exit exam would really help all students. If I'm in a school-to-work program in high school, do I write the same exit exam as the student heading for university? Our post-secondary outcomes are drastically different.
I'll try and keep an eye on any developments in these candidates' platforms until the vote in late June.
Hat-tip to Sandy (and her own source).


Anonymous said...

"Phonics is used as part of the toolkit in both elementary and primary grades as children learn to read and write"

You're kidding right?

What's being taught in Ontario classrooms is "balanced literacy" which is another term for whole language, and while phonics is a small component, a true and explicit phonics program is a stand-alone program, not a component of another.

See the Society of Quality Education's website for information on what's what in reading programs.

If in fact a true phonics program were being used in our schools, I can almost guarantee that the EQAO scores would be much better than they are.

Anonymous said...

EQAO results show that reading comprehension, including inferring and making connections, between stories and real life are why students struggle with EQAO. Phonics can serve a purpose to help children learn to decode, but it can't help them to understand what they are reading.

Anonymous said...

Most teachers have not been trained in direct and explicit phonics instruction. Again, as it is offered now, it is one small part of basically a whole language package.

To be effective a child must learn to walk before he/she runs...phonics allows for a building of basics which is developed for understanding and with confidence.

Millions of kids who came through school in the 1950s and 1960s can't be wrong.

Explicit phonics succeeds in helping a majority of kids learn to read, than has whole language.

Anonymous said...

If children can't decode, they can't read PERIOD. They can't get meaning from looking at pictures or guessing or figuring out what whole words are. It just doesn't work. There is ample research evidence that children when taught by systematic explicit phonics outperform children taught with "balanced literacy".
AND the gains stay with kids long into their education.

If they can't decipher what they are reading in the first place, they will never comprehend.

I suggest interested parties see:

or go to:

Jo-Anne Gross said...

Explicit systematic synthetic phonics has been proven to succeed in teaching 90% of students to read and spell in the early grades.It`s much different than the phonics of old-it begins with phonemic awareness,a new discovery that the deciphering of the code of English begins with speech sounds and then we show the children the picture the speech sound makes.We then teach them to blend these phonemes for reading and segment them for spelling.Yes-I agree that teaching students the meaning of words,stories and have them retell the oral stories sequentially in their own words is also imperative but not before the other is completely in place-we are putting the horse before the cart with disastrous consequences.Canada is now the only English speaking country,unlike the U.S. and the U.K. that is not espousing this empirical research.This blog gives me hope for our children.

Anonymous said...

In Ontario education is in crisis. If you want to read an example of this check the Owen Sound Sun Times, specifically the Bluewater Board of Education.

Long story short, the board eliminated rotary to grades 7 and 8-in gym class kids now play dodge ball almost 80% of the time-, science fair is gone, public speaking non existent etc.- They are pushing an integrated approach, without teacher preparation or a thorough body of professional literature. One day we have rotary the next we have an idea. And they've done this without a shred of evidence supporting their pedagogical theory. And they've done this in spite of the fact that the Ontario ministry has three studies verifying the importance of rotary and being taught by a specialist.

Parents complained, got organized and engaged in a lengthy battle which resulted in trustees voting almost unanimously to bring back a limited amount of rotary. However,the Board has an out-it's up to the local principals to decide.

Well, one clown, who rides in the hip pocket of senior administration has flipped the bird at the parents by sending home in a newsletter the value of not having rotary. Translated, Bozo has no intention of honoring the wishes of the educational community.

This pathetic sage has seen it's share of arrogance, disdain for the public, vindictiveness, exploitation, and more.

We need a new government and a new leader. I'm personally hoping that whoever gets in, will become the next premier, and will address this problem.